Being the researcher you all know I am, and continuing along the lines of recent discoveries I’ve made, I recently came across this interesting video on YouTube:
Weight loss and exercise It’s less than 5 minutes long and worth every second!
In this video they talk about our resting, aka basal, metabolic rate which is the calories burned to keep us alive each day. This means just breathing, doing nothing, in a neutral temperate environment (neither too hot, nor too cold) and not in the process of digesting food. Important note, this by no means indicates that exercise is not necessary in our lives. Regular exercise does help keep us healthy and to live longer. This blog is about exercise and weight loss.
Our resting metabolic rate accounts for the majority of our calories burned, over which we have very little control. A good portion of our calories burned each day also goes to food breakdown. The rest of the calories burned, about 10-30%, goes to energy for physical activity. So that means that although 100% of our calories in each day are under our control, only about 30% of calories out are under our control. The old adage that weight loss is as simple as calories in versus calories out, no longer applies. Anyone who tells you that weight loss is that simple is not up on current research. If you’ve been reading my blogs about body shape types (part 1, part 2) or my page on Breaking Free From Emotional Eating program, then you know that weight loss is most definitely not just about calories!
There’s also evidence of two other possible reasons why exercise doesn’t work for weight loss. 1) People tend to get hungry after working out and thus many eat more than they would if they had not exercised, and 2) people sometimes slow down, meaning are less active or move slower in other activities after exercise. It’s called “compensatory behaviour” and it’s one of the ways we unknowingly undermine our workouts.
The video states that research has also discovered something called “metabolic compensation”, as people start to slim down their resting metabolism can slow down so the amount of energy you burn at rest is lower (remember this is the part where most of the calories are burned and you have little control over).
It takes so much energy via physical activity to burn off some of the food choices we make that most people get discouraged, don’t have the time, might eat more because the exercise made them hungry, that it’s best to moderate your food intake rather than try to adjust the impact of overeating by vigorous exercise. Some quick examples of how long it takes to burn off some food choices: 60 min of running to burn off a burger & fries, 60 mins of vigorous dancing to burn off a few glasses of wine you had at dinner, 60 mins of intense bicycling to burn off 2 donuts! If you eat more than one of those types of food (or overeat in general) all in one day, you could spend 3-4 of your waking hours exercising! This is why I pay no attention to the calories (supposedly) burned that I see on exercise machines at the gym, I find it way too discouraging. Additionally, all that exercise is shown to be injury causing, disease causing (possibly – the science is still young), and stress causing.
If you’ve ever heard that weight management (loss, gain, maintenance) is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, now you know why. A clean whole foods, unprocessed, preservative free (or at least minimal preservatives) diet appropriate for each individual is the way to weight control! What’s more, the belief that “I can eat what I want and/or how much I want and not gain weight if I exercise enough” is also a falsehood. You may not gain weight (that’s a big maybe) if you do tons of exercise, but if you’re eating a processed, sugar filled (have you read food labels lately?), high carbohydrate, chemical heavy diet, then you’re not healthy, and won’t remain that way over the long term either. Overeating of a healthy diet is not good either. Too much of healthy whole foods is still too much.
It’s not impossible to lose weight with exercise but it’s a lot harder. If you go to the gym and use a significant amount of your valuable time and put in considerable effort to burn off calories, you can erase all of that in 5 mins by eating a slice of pizza! Seems a whole lot easier and much more effective to eat a moderate intake of clean whole foods, with an occasional/rare indulgence; and use exercise for the immediate and long term health benefits.